Where Okinawa?, History, Culture

Where Okinawa?


Ryukyu, which used to be an independent country, has built its own history, and developed varied cultures. In the 12th century, the leader of old Okinawa called the feudal lord, Aji, built the castle called Gusuku and came to compete for hegemony. In the 14th century, the island entered into the Sanzan period when Okinawa was divided and ruled by three different powers. Those rulers strengthened their military and economic power through the Shinkou trade with China. In the 15th century, Shohashi unified Sanzan, which was the beginning of the Ryukyu kingdom. It became Okinawa prefecture by the establishment of prefectures in place of feudal domains in 1879. Also a great number of victims remained because of World War II. Okinawa was put under the control of the United States Armed Forces after the war and achieved unification with the mainland in 1972. Okinawa, where walked its original history has the UNESCO World Heritage of “Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu” and many other ruins. The original indigenous cultural traditions such as the Utaki faith and ancestor worship, and various traditional performing arts and crafts such as ceramic ware, textiles, and lacquerware have been passed down to the present generation.


Traditional handicrafts

Many of the traditional handicraft articles of Okinawa were transmitted from China and other Asian countries, and they spread to various parts of Okinawa in the Ryukyu Dynasty age. Furthermore, they developed uniquely in the natural climate of Okinawa, and the work and soul of the craftsmen have been handed down to the present.
  • Ryukyu pottery

    It is characterized by simple and forcible warm textures. It is said that professional craftsmen were called in from the Korean peninsula to learn it in the Ryukyu Dynasty age. Its health is peculiar to Okinawa and relaxation is a part of the superb pieces of work.
  • Bingata

    It was introduced from China and Southeast Asia, and is a vivid dying technique based on a primary color. It was mainly used for the kimono for women of the warrior class and the government, and for the payment of tribute to China.
  • Ryukyu Glass

    The glass technology is made from scrapped bottles and was created in the time of U.S. rule after the war. It is popular with its vivid and clear texture, which is completely transparent.

Traditional performing arts

  • Ryukyu Dance

    Ryukyu Dance is classified into three types. Folk Dance spread throughout Okinawa. Classical Dance developed during the Ryukyu kingdom era, and Zo-odori (popular dance) was created in the modern era.
  • Sanshin

    Sanshin which came from China in the 15th century was spread among the Ryukyu samurai, and then it went around to the ordinary people. The unique tune of sanshin is easy to play for everyone.
  • Eisa(dance)

    The Eisa dance is aimed at sending the souls of ancestors by merry drums, songs, sanshin and dance during the Bon Festival. Young men’s associations in different areas have their own unique style. The Eisa dance has been recently performed in various events and tourist spots.